First Principles

Recent correspondence to The Canadian Jewish News (Nov. 23, 2017) in response to an opinion column by Mordechai Ben-Dat, one of GAJE’s founding members, suggests that the principles by which conducts itself and the purposes for which GAJE stands need to be restated.

• GAJE is unreservedly in favour of all forms of Jewish education – formal and informal – including after- school supplementary programing and summer camp. The education of our children in and about their heritage has been both the North Star and the anchor by which our people has never lost its direction or drifted away during the many difficult storms in Jewish history. Families ought to choose the form of education that best suits them and their way of life.

• Study after study, however, has empirically proven that the best – though not the only – way to ensure that our children will live committed, caring, Jewish lives is through intense, quality education, namely day school. At this juncture in our history, alas, day school education is increasingly and one can add, inexcusably, beyond the reach of most middle families.

• Our deeply held belief is that assuring access to Jewish education to all Jewish children whose families wish such an education for their children is one of the pre-eminent obligations of community leadership and infrastructure. This belief is in keeping with the past practices of our community’s leadership and most important, with the traditions, teachings and sense of peoplehood that our sages established since the very first days of organized Jewish communal life.

• Indeed, the mission of the Federation attests to the validity of this belief. GAJE supports the Federation’s broad community mandate. GAJE cooperates with the Federation. However, to help bring Jewish education within the reach of more families, GAJE has urged the Federation to try to take some form of central control of the education system.

• One of the reasons that the cost of Jewish education in Ontario is much higher than in other Canadian provinces where day schools exist is because of the entrenched discriminatory, unfair, unjust educational funding policies of the government of Ontario.
GAJE believes this active, ongoing discrimination by the government of Ontario – though legal – is utterly unconscionable. We wish to drive home the fact that adopting fair funding does not undermine the pubic school system. In fact, evidence is to the contrary. Fair funding would strengthen the overall educational outcomes throughout Ontario. It would also place Ontario’s policy in line with good conscience and justice as the other provinces have done.

• Given the moral strength of the Jewish people throughout our history, our constant resistance to seemingly overwhelming odds, and our unceasing refusal to say “this cannot be done”, it strains credibility to simply give up on the struggle to make day school education affordable.

• We need people – the young and the old, men and women, parents and grandparents, students and graduates, innovators and conservators – to come up with the big, new idea or ideas that will ensure that the Jewish day school system will thrive in perpetuity. The sums of money are surprisingly not so vast that they are beyond the ability of our community to raise.

• The threat to the current system is real. Maintaining the status quo in the approach to Jewish education will merely evolve into the slow, sad, monitoring of the death of the vibrant, diverse, excellent day school system that has been the hallmark of our community. And without such a day school system, there will be a vastly different, hollowed out, community structure in the future, less able and even less willing – God forbid – to tend with dignity and respect, to the many valid, important needs of the community.

• The Federation understands this as well. That is why it is actively seeking ways to ensure the viability of the day school system. And that is why GAJE is determined to help bring about affordable Jewish education.


Shabbat Shalom.


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